What Is A Clean Gutter?
Gutters exist for function, not beauty. So when a service company is hired to clean the gutters on your building, it is to ensure that they are able to perform their function properly, not to ensure that they look good.
The challenge then for a strata when they hire a service provider to clean their gutters is: how do they know that they got good value for their money? What is a ‘clean gutter’?
Let’s consider all aspects of that as it relates to gutter cleaning and see if you agree.
Gutters exist around the edge of building rooflines to direct the rainfall in a safe manner away from the home. If water fell all around the edge of the roof around the building, then landscaping would be ruined, and the foundation potentially damaged. So instead, the gutters help direct the flow of rainwater away from the building in a safe manner.
Cleaning a gutter allows for this function to continue.
Therefore, a dirty gutter, or a gutter which requires service is a gutter that has its function impeded. Gutter cleaning is to remove those impediments to function.
When leaves and other debris fall into a gutter trough, they restrict the flow of water through the gutter channel, or possibly choke it off completely. This causes the gutter to fill with water and overflow, leading the type of scenario the gutter was installed to eliminate in the first place. It can also clog downspouts with the same result. So the leaves, debris and other items must be removed by the cleaning service to allow the water to flow through the channel, down the downspout, and away.
If the debris has been removed and water can flow freely, then looking down into the gutter channel should reveal a gutter trough free of impediments; not necessarily a gutter trough that looks clean.
This is where a lot of confusion arises. Usually, when we clean something, it is to keep the area or item sanitary, and improve appearance. The challenge is that this is not the way we need to judge a gutter cleaning service. If all of the impediments to function have been removed from a gutter trough, it may still ‘look dirty’ (see pic above). There may be algae scum adhered to the sides of the trough, or a thin layer of silt or dirt still clinging to the inside. However, if the proper function of the gutter has been restored, the the gutter is ‘clean’, or ‘fixed’, or returned to its proper state. The aesthetic appearance doesn’t matter because it doesn’t affect the function of the gutter at all. Anything remaining in the trough may look dirty, but a gutter doesn’t need to be disinfected or look good to function well. And, if it were cleaned to the point where it does look good, then the extra labor time and cost to get it to that state is essentially wasted money on the part of the purchaser of the service. Why pay extra to over perform in an unnecessary manner? After all, rainwater will strike the roof surface and carry surface dirt and sediment down and into the gutter the next time it rains. In very short order, the gutter won’t look good again. But really, what does it matter? We don’t want to look out into our gutters, we just want them to work.
Value/Quality of Service vs. Function
Some stratas want the inside or outside of the gutters to ‘look good’. On the outside, this can make sense if it improves the overall appearance of the building. But this type of aesthetic clean should not be confused with what is commonly referred to in the industry as a gutter cleaning service (for function). Combining this type of cleaning with an inside clean or cleaning of siding may make sense, but don’t expect a regular gutter cleaning service to include an aesthetic clean. As discussed, it isn’t necessary, and so should be considered an additional option for which the purchaser is paying extra.
Here’s a suggested breakdown to look at gutter cleaning.
1x Cleaning Service For Function.
This is a ‘standard’gutter cleaning. It includes cleaning the inside of all of the gutter trough on the building for function. All impediments to rainwater collection and flow should be removed.
Additional Levels of Service
Additional cost should be considered for adding any of the following:
-Aesthetic clean of the inside of the gutter trough
-Aesthetic clean of the outside of the gutter trough
-More than one visit
-Repair work to gutters (refastening downspouts, recalling seams, realigning gutters that are no longer sloped properly to drain, etc.)
If a purchaser considers a standard 1x gutter cleaning should include any of the above, then the price would go up. If after accepting a quote for service, a purchaser insists that any of those items be included, then the provider will feel that they have underpriced the work, and not want to perform the additional work above the definition of a 1x gutter clean. Setting expectations before work begins is therefore paramount.
New Issues Arising After A Gutter Cleaning Service Is Complete
What about a clog or problem arising after a 1 x gutter cleaning service has been performed? If water is seen to be overflowing over the side of a gutter, does that mean that the service wasn’t performed right and the service provider should come back at their own cost to fix the problem? Does it mean the job wasn’t done right?
Perhaps. The answer is not yes in all situations however.
Factors to consider:
-time since the initial service was complete
-condition of the gutters (a repair may be necessary)
-slope of the gutters (trough may be sitting on an angle which doesn’t allow for proper drainage.
If within days a gutter is overflowing again in heavy rainfall, then yes, a service provider should inspect the gutter system to ensure that nothing was missed. At the same time, the cause of the overflow should be discovered and reported so that the situation can be rectified.
If several weeks or months have passed however, and a gutter overflows, then it cannot be immediately assumed to have been a flaw with the original service. The gutter should be checked to see if a section was missed during the initial service. However, in most cases the cause will be that new debris has fallen into the gutter causing a clog. This happens because:
-trees shed their leaves at different times during the autumn
-most gutter cleaning services in our region cannot be timed perfectly between when all leaves have fallen and prior to water in gutters freezing, so there are always new leaves which may cause potential clogs in future.
-pine trees shed their leaves throughout the year, and can cause new gutter clogs at any time
-heavy wind, rain, and other inclement weather can blow debris onto roofs which then gets washed down by rain into the gutter system, causing clogs.
In order to address the issue of new problems arising around a strata after an initial service, ServiceMaster Clean Residential introduced our “Gutter Cleaning Program” service, which benefits our customers by including 3 free service calls for a year after the initial cleaning service, to address these issues when they arise. (See next article below for more details). Problem areas do present themselves periodically, and this has proven itself to be an effective method of addressing those issues.
So, a clean gutter is a gutter that is performing its function properly, based no being in good repair and free of impediments.